PhD in Nursing
“I don’t think you should teach what you don’t do at this level. Continuing to practice in such a rapidly changing field keeps my skills current and keeps me abreast of all the changes that are occurring."
Mary Benbenek, PhD, MS, RN, FNP, PNP, is a clinical associate professor and the coordinator for the family nurse practitioner specialty within the School of Nursing. She has been a family nurse practitioner since 1995.
“I was interested in working with individuals across the lifespan and being a family nurse practitioner enables me to do that. I had experience in intensive care and public health, so I had seen a lot aspects of health care and wanted to continue to work with patients and families of all ages,” said Benbenek, about why she wanted to become a family nurse practitioner. “A family nurse practitioner has the opportunity to work with entire families, which benefits each individual member of the family. So many health conditions require the support and commitment of all family members, so being a family nurse practitioner allows me to get to know the family and how all the parts fit together.”
In the clinical setting, she said she is “forever asking why things occur and can’t help but notice trends in patient health.” She earned a PhD degree at the School of Nursing to gain the tools to study some of the phenomena she encounters “to hopefully enhance the health of the patients and families I work with.”
Benbenek continues to practice at two community clinics. They are both primary care, but one has more of an internal medicine focus and the other serves primarily uninsured and underinsured individuals. “I don’t think you should teach what you don’t do at this level. Continuing to practice in such a rapidly changing field keeps my skills current and keeps me abreast of all the changes that are occurring. This in turn assists me to prepare my students for the real world,” said Benbenek.
Her efforts preparing students for the real world aren’t going unnoticed. She was awarded Minnesota Association of Colleges of Nursing Outstanding Nurse Educator of the Year Award 2013. “Dr. Mary Benbenek strives to challenge her students without intimidating them. She is quick to answer questions, but also encourages her students to take the initiative to learn material on their own,” said Amelia Aldrich, a Doctor of Nursing Practice student. “Her vast knowledge and expertise in the family practice setting is inspiring. She is a fantastic role model, and I aspire to be half as wonderful as she is with both patients and students.”